In case you’ve never heard of Rick Lavoie, you don’t want to miss him. I consider him the hero of learning-disabled children (and adults) ever since his F.A.T. City Workshop video came out in 1987. (F.A.T. stands for Frustration, Anxiety, and Tension.) The adults who came to this workshop were given simple exercises that seemed impossible, putting them in the shoes of the learning-disabled child.
Here are some of the clips of the F.A.T. City Workshop video, in case you’ve never watched it. You can get a glimpse of what it is like to live with learning disabilities just by watching the clips (of course the entire video is much, much better):
There are many more YouTube clips featuring Lavoie and although I’m not going to put them all up here, I do recommend you watch them all.
Rick Lavoie has also written many books, as you can see on his site (linked to above via his name), and he has some very good articles as well. He travels around the world on speaking engagements, still spreading awareness about children who struggle with all sorts of learning disabilities as well as children with social difficulties. Lavoie places a huge emphasis on the importance of a child’s self-esteem and motivating children to fulfill their potential.
I was actually lucky that Rick came to our town a few months ago and I was able to hear him speak. He delivered an excellent presentation although to my disappointment, because he was short on time, he had to skip a lot of what he had planned to speak about.
Here’s one book of Rick Lavoie’s that I haven’t read, and now that I’m reading the reviews, I’m wondering why on Earth not.
Anxiety, visual-spatial trouble, execute-functioning, nonverbal communication, it sounds exactly like the book I should have read!
Lavoie’s newer book “The Motivation Breakthrough- 6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-Out Child” is a must-read for parents, teachers, or any adult who deals with children on a constant basis.
There are 2 things about this book that I think are amazing and that I wanted to talk about here. The first is the main part of the book- Lavoie lists 6 different types of motivators that capture a child’s attention when presented to him by an adult, and will have him motivated to do better or produce more than he is. Running through them quickly, because if I try to explain them quickly I’ll butcher them, they are: Praise, Power, Projects, Prestige, Prizes, and People. Lavoie delves into each of these 6 motivators and explains how a teacher (or parent or other adult) can use them to maximize a child’s potential.
The second point I wanted to discuss is from pretty much the end of the book where Lavoie writes about parents who don’t tell their children that they have learning disabilities- or any disability- because they don’t want him/her to know.
I can’t write it any more succinctly or bluntly than Rick does in the book: “He knows, Mom. Believe me, he knows.”
Kids who struggle with a disability recognize quite obviously that they are different than others. It is extremely comforting to know that there is actually a name (diagnosis) for what they struggle with daily. The child whose parents keep telling him that he’s no different than anybody else, has so many questions and so much anxiety despite all his parents’ reassurances because he feels different than everyone else, and it is easy for him to see it as it’s constantly hanging over him as he interacts with his peers or as he doesn’t do as well scholastically. The child needs to know that he is correct about his different-ness, and that there are steps he can take to make his struggles less, and that there are hundreds of children just like him out there in the world. When a parent consistently denies that the child is different, it is like telling him over and over again, that it’s all in his head and he’s making up his difficulties. Parents who think they are doing the right thing by denying their child the right to know what he struggles with, need to realize that they are only affirming in his head that he in indeed crazy and even more different than he feels. They might as well start selling the anxiety he manufactures, he produces warehouse-loads daily.
Please, parents. Tell your child. And tell him early, if you still can, so that it doesn’t eventually create a mountain out of a molehill.